Leinster clash will come too soon for Connacht’s Mack Hansen

Ireland wing is still recovering from a long-term injury which has kept him sidelined since January

Friday’s final URC fling against Leinster is billed as the last chance saloon for Connacht, and no bigger challenge than Leo Cullen’s side bruised by their Champions Cup final loss.

Connacht will need other results to go their way in order to make the top eight, but head coach Pete Wilkins says his side must run out onto the RDS Arena with “all guns blazing”.

Counting the cost of their 12-16 defeat to the DHL Stormers at Dexcom Stadium last time out, Connacht sit in 10th position, four points shy of Emirates Lions, Benetton and Edinburgh, who meet each other. Thus Wilkins acknowledges that even a win may not be enough.

“It’s a cup final for us. We put ourselves in this position. We don’t have anyone else to blame, and hope a couple of things go our way in the other fixtures,” he says.


And on the back of Leinster’s heartbreaking loss to Toulouse in the European Rugby Champions Cup final, Wilkins says Connacht cannot afford to give their hosts any incentive.

“It is something we have discussed as coaches and with our players in terms of us calibrating the right mindset.

“There is a danger that in the past we have tried to read too much into what the opposition’s motivation might be or state of mind, and quite often something can happen in the first five minutes of the game that can totally change that anyway. So we have to be careful how we use it, but it would be really silly not to reference that they are coming off a tough result.

“Leinster are particularly strong, and we saw that to our own expense at the earlier game at Dexcom. So a fast start is important. It’s a challenge we relish, and in the first 15 minutes we will know where we are at.”

Shane Jennings and prop Denis Buckley both come into the selection reckoning, but it is too soon for Mack Hansen, whose shoulder is not ready for contact, while scrumhalf Matthew Devine remains sidelined with a rib injury.